THE master of the largest maternity hospital in the country, Dr Rhona Mahony, is getting a privately funded top-up of €45,000 in addition to her salary and allowances of more than €236,000.
Dr Mahony, master of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, is one of four senior staff in the publicly funded institution who are getting the board-approved allowances of at least €30,000 each from private funds.
Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin said earlier today that “top up” payments should not be used.
“Well firstly I think there should be transparency in the pay levels of anybody on the public payroll.
“There’s clearly an opaqueness about some in the health sector and that should be clarified. We should to know exactly how much people are paid.
“And there should not be top-ups per se – there should be transparency, a clear rate of pay for the job,” he said.
The National Maternity Hospital is among a number of the voluntary organisations which pay its top executives generous allowances from a private account.
All of the maternity hospitals are in the red and carrying deficits.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) provides a total of €1.5bn in annual funding to the maternity hospitals and other health institutions who have their own board.
They may also receive some funding from private sources, such as car parking or on-site shops, but exactly where the allowances are paid from is often unclear.
A spokesman for the National Maternity Hospital was unable to explain the source of the private funding used to provide the allowances to Dr Mahony, plus the secretary manager, the director of nursing and the financial controller.
Meanwhile, it emerged that the master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, is receiving a €20,000 top-up from the hospital's private funds. He is also on a State salary of €183,562 and an on-call allowance of €49,545.
Other senior staff at the Rotunda are receiving additional allowances from the private fund, ranging from €6,000 to €17,000.
Figures obtained by the Irish Independent also reveal that the Central Remedial Clinic in Dublin is paying its chief executive Paul Kiely more than €135,000 in salary and allowances from its own funds on top of his HSE-funded salary of €106,900.
The clinic is also paying private allowances of at least €32,000 to four other executives. The organisation, which has a range of services for children and adults with physical conditions, has a fundraising department and a large number of corporate donors.
The extent of salary top-ups from private sources is now under intense scrutiny.
It is understood that Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who cut his salary by €14,000 to €200,000 upon taking office back in 2011, has highlighted the issue of salaries in voluntary bodies in the health sector during discussions with Fine Gael colleagues.
Mr Kenny took a further pay reduction in July to €185,500 due to the cuts for higher earners in the Haddington Road agreement. But he is fully aware that others in voluntary bodies funded with State money are still getting paid more than him.
And aside from the issue of privately funded top-ups, there are also other allowances which are paid out of taxpayer funds, but have not been officially approved. The Department of Health has already called for an end to these allowances.
It led to a strongly worded circular from the Department of Health, stating non-Exchequer sources of funding may not be used to supplement approved rates of remuneration.
This was reiterated by Health Minister James Reilly yesterday, who said if hospitals or organisations want to continue with this practice they have to make a case for it with the Department of Expenditure and Reform.
The HSE has written to 43 of these agencies asking them to confirm compliance – but so far a mere five have replied that they have stopped the payments, with 10 others asking for more time to examine legal and contractual issues.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Coombe Hospital said yesterday that it was fully compliant with pay rules in relation to the salary of master Dr Sharon Sheehan, who did not receive private top-ups.
The report to the Department of Health said her master's allowance was €63,559, some €10,000 higher than what the department said was the standard cap.
But a spokesperson for the hospital insisted that the master's "pay is in line with HSE guidelines" without elaborating further on the matter.
Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin has also confirmed its chief executive Lorcan Birthistle is getting a private allowance of €30,000 generated from the profits of the hospital shop, bringing his salary to €140,808. However, Dr Reilly has said these top-ups from car parks and shops cannot be used to supplement pay.
By Eilish O'Regan